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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Address: Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8AG
Contact details: Telephone 0141 276 9599, email firstname.lastname@example.org
My complete guide: A Guide to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
This attraction – located in the serene Kelvingrove Park – is one of the city’s highlights and absolutely has to be at the top of your list of places to visit in Glasgow.
Set inside a beautifully ornate red sandstone building, Kelvingrove has been wowing visitors since opening in 1852 and if you ever get the chance to visit it you’ll be taken on a journey through ancient Egypt, the animal kingdom, modern art, Scotland’s cultural heritage and much, much more.
What I like most about Kelvingrove is that it’s pretty much two attractions in one as it features halls dedicated to the fields of both art and history and the curators have arranged them in a way that’s enjoyable for all ages, not just pensioners looking to kill a couple of hours.
Although there are lots of permanent fixtures (like the restored Spitfire hanging from the ceiling of the East Court) many exhibits in the Life (showcasing natural and human history) and Expression (featuring fine art) galleries are rotated, so going back for another visit later in the year always gives you something new to look at.
And there’s plenty to look at.
Over 9000 exhibits are displayed across 22 state-of-the-art galleries, with the fine art collections being widely recognised as some of the best in Europe where you can see masterpieces by Leonardo Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Renoir and Glasgow’s favourite home-grown designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a top place to wander around if the weather turns grey but as it’s in the middle of Kelvingrove Park you can always head outside to enjoy the sun when the clouds clear.
There’s even a decent restaurant on-site, and it’s also close to Glasgow University so it’s easy to combine both attractions into one city visit.
Address: Kelvingrove Park, Kelvin Way, Glasgow
Contact details: Glasgow City Council website
My complete guide: A Guide to Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow
As mentioned above, Kelvingrove Park is home to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – one of Scotland’s most popular free tourist attractions.
But what many visitors (myself included) fail to realise on their first visit to the museum and art gallery is that there’s a beautiful 85-acre public park sitting behind it which has loads of activities to get involved with in addition to vast expanses of parkland.
Admittedly most people visiting the park midweek are there to take a break from busy office jobs, but if you take the time to find out what else it has to offer I reckon you’ll spend more time there than you were expecting.
Walking north along Kelvin Way will take you to the Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls and Tennis Centre which was used for the 2014 Commonwealth games, and the Kelvingrove skate park is nearby if you’ve got sports-loving kids with a penchant for skateboards.
There are also 3 children’s play parks if you’ve got younger offspring that need to be kept occupied and there are a couple of cafes if you fancy a caffeine fix that doesn’t make you feel like you’re stuck in a claustrophobic city centre.
Kelvingrove is a very accessible park too and there’s a network of well-maintained tarmac paths running through it, with the path that runs alongside the River Kelvin as it meanders towards the River Clyde being my personal favourite.
The Kelvin Walkway is a real oasis right in the heart of Glasgow and is home to geese, kingfishers, foxes and even otters.
Now I bet you weren’t expecting to find that lot in the middle of Scotland’s biggest city.
Glasgow University and The Hunterian Museum
Address: The Gilbert Scott Building, The University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ
Contact details: Telephone 0141 330 4221, email email@example.com
Strictly speaking, this is actually two separate attractions, although the Hunterian Museum is located inside the university’s Gilbert Scott Building so I’m combining them into one section.
Besides, it’s my website and I’ll do whatever I like. If that’s ok with you of course.
Anyhoo, moving on… The University of Glasgow is one of the most striking buildings in Glasgow, and possibly the whole of Scotland, looking more like a cathedral than a place of education.
This beautifully ornate building is located close to Kelvingrove Park which you can walk to in just 10-minutes so it’s well worth taking the time to visit if you’re in the vicinity, even if you’re not exactly expecting a city university to be all that tourist-worthy.
Let me assure you though, it’s actually quite a beautiful place, full of gothic towers and curious hidden archways and it absolutely oozes with history – not surprising seeing as it’s the 4th-oldest university in Britain having been founded all the way back in 1451.
The Gilbert Scott Building is a bit newer at a mere 150 years old but it’s an extremely atmospheric structure, and I recommend you see the cloisters and the East and West Quadrangles during your visit (hit the Glasgow University link above to find out more about them).
There’s also a nice 1920’s chapel, Bute Hall which is an impossibly impressive room where students graduate, and the Hunterian Art Gallery is nearby with the Mackintosh House that celebrates the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (yep, him again).
Pop your head inside the Gilbert Scott Building where the stairs lead away from The Cloisters and you’ll find The Hunterian Museum which is a university and public museum located opposite Bute Hall, and in my opinion it has to be the best hidden gem in the city.
This fascinating collection of exhibits opened in 1807 when private collector and anatomist William Hunter gifted his life’s work to the university, and since that date it has been extended into a museum that covers the themes of Roman history, dinosaurs, evolution, metals and minerals, medicine and much more.
Turn right from the main entrance and you’ll enter the main hall – a huge area set over 2 floors that contains the bulk of the artefacts while the space opposite the main entrance houses a collection of pieces from the Roman Antonine Wall.
They’ve managed to cram a huge number of things to look at inside each exhibition space and the displays never get boring, though I suppose they’ve had the time to get it just right seeing as The Hunterian is actually the oldest museum in the whole of Scotland.
Each display case is meticulously arranged and full of interesting objects, from meteorites to dinosaur bones and ancient human tools to old medical instruments, and there’s so much to look at I defy anyone to get bored during their visit.
And did I mention it’s free to get in? Seriously, what’s not to like about that?
Address: Cathedral Precinct, Castle Street, Glasgow, G4 0QZ
Contact details: Telephone Historic Scotland Custodians 0141 552 6891, Contact form
My complete guide: A Guide to Glasgow Cathedral
The story of Glasgow Cathedral is really the story of Glasgow, because without this majestic example of 1100s architecture we wouldn’t have this city with all its amazing tourist attractions.
The medieval cathedral was built in dedication to Saint Kentigern (also known as Saint Mungo) who is believed to have been buried on the site in 612AD, and as worshippers flocked to his shrine a small community grew around it.
Over time the community attracted tradespeople and shopkeepers and within a few hundred years the city that we now know as Glasgow was founded.
The cathedral as we see it today wasn’t finished till the mid-1200s but take a look at it and you can understand why it took so long to build.
It’s beautifully sculpted and mightily impressive – kind of like a mini York Minster – and thankfully it’s managed to survive the last 900-odd years pretty much intact through religious upheavals and world wars.
Step inside and you’ll be amazed by the decorative interior and the awe-inspiring stained glass windows, and the nave is absolutely monumental in size.
It’s an incredible space and I can’t even begin to imagine what our medieval ancestors must have thought of it, and I don’t think it’s any surprise that it remains one of Glasgow’s most-visited buildings today.
The cathedral is joint run with Historic Environment Scotland so there are frequent exhibitions held inside and you can book yourself onto a free tour if you really want to discover its history, but I personally recommend wandering around at your own leisure to soak up the atmosphere of the place
And speaking of atmosphere, when you visit make sure you head downstairs to the crypt which is supposed to be the final resting place of St. Kentigern.
It’s really goose-bumpy (that’s an actual word, right?) down there and also has several information panels so you can learn about the story of both the cathedral and the saint, but if you develop a thirst to know more there’s a decent shop near the entrance that has loads of history books to browse through.
But if even that leaves you craving more I highly recommend you take a walk across the cathedral precinct and head inside St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art – which just so happens to be the next attraction in this list.
St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art
Address: Castle Street, Glasgow, G4 0RH
Contact details: Telephone 0141 276 1625 , email firstname.lastname@example.org
My complete guide: A Guide to the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art
This is another Glasgow Museum that’s well worth visiting, not just because it’s free and next door to the cathedral but because it’s genuinely interesting whether you’re a religious type or not.
I’ll be honest with you here, I’ve got absolutely no interest in religion, but I really enjoyed my visit to St. Mungo’s Museum which in my mind is the sign of all the best attractions. People will find it interesting regardless of their background.
I’ve got a mind-blowing fact for you – this is the only museum in the world that’s solely devoted to the subject of religion. Ok, that’s not exactly mind-blowing but it is a bit interesting, and I reckon it’s worth visiting this museum just for that fact alone.
What impressed me most about St. Mungo’s Museum is that it doesn’t cram religion down your throat and instead aims to inform and educate you about religions the world over. You’re then left to make your own mind up about it all which is a great approach to take.
To achieve that aim each room is full to the rafters with religious paintings, statues and objects collected from all over the globe, and there are plenty of information panels along with each exhibit and display case so you can learn about the origins of each religion and how it ties into modern life.
Take a walk around the floors and you’ll see a Nigerian tribal screen sat next to a statue of the Indian god Shiva, and Buddha statues resting in front of Christian stained glass windows.
It’s interesting stuff.
Of course, the biggest section is devoted to St. Mungo himself so you can’t fail to learn a little bit about the saint and his ties to the city of Glasgow.
While all this is great for adults I think youngsters are going to find it hard going, but at least there’s a really good cafe downstairs with outside seating if you want to give them a break.
By the way, top-tip for you – the cakes are properly yummy and very reasonably priced so consider eating in the museum cafe instead of grabbing the standard Greggs sausage roll up the road.
The Glasgow Necropolis
Address: Castle St, Glasgow, G4 0UZ
Contact details: email email@example.com
My complete guide: A Guide to the Glasgow Necropolis
And this next attraction is…a graveyard. Nope, I’m not going mad. One of Glasgow’s top tourist attractions is indeed a graveyard.
But not just any old graveyard. Oh no. The Necropolis is the final resting place of over 50,000 Glasgow residents, many of whom were instrumental in forging Scotland into the country that it is today.
Across this vast 37-acre site you’ll find a dizzying number of Gothic tombs, monuments and gravestones with a spiders-web of paths threading their way between them.
One thing I recommend you do before setting off is to download a map and then go on a hunt for the graves of Scotland’s most famous great and good, like John Knox and Charles Rennie Mackintosh (he gets everywhere at these attractions) because it makes the whole experience much more interesting.
You can download a good map here.
There are around 3,500 monuments at the Necropolis and most of them are very decorative, but possibly none more so than the very first monument that was installed there – and that’s the one dedicated to the 16th-century Scottish reformer, John Knox.
Knox’s monument sits on top of a hill overlooking Glasgow Cathedral and it’s a great spot to get an elevated view of the city, especially if you’re trying to get an all-encompassing photo of the cathedral situated right at the foot of the hill.
This is another unusual but genuinely interesting tourist attraction and I think you really should make the effort to walk up to the Knox monument if you’re already in the area to visit the nearby cathedral and St. Mungo museum.
It’s just a shame that Knox isn’t actually buried there. Instead, you’ll find him tarmacked under the car park at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh…
Planning a trip to Scotland?
- Find hotels in Scotland and book your rental car.
- Explore the country with Rabbies small group coach tours and get cheap advance tickets for attractions.
- Learn about Scotland with a range of Amazon books and prepare for hikes with
Ordnance Survey maps.
- Before you explore the great outdoors get your rain gear in place and don’t forget to buy Smidge anti-midge repellent!